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Learning about Mind & Body:

Research is One Way

By Pat Buchanan, PhD, ATC, PT, GCFT


A 1964 article by Moshe Feldenkrais entitled “Mind and Body” is now available in a recent collection of his papers, Embodied Wisdom. In this paper, Dr. Feldenkrais summarized and explained the foundation and principles behind his method. I share some quotations from “Mind and Body” throughout this article as I consider the relationship between the Feldenkrais Method® and research.

Dr. Feldenkrais’ training as a scientist and researcher with expertise in mathematics and engineering is evident in his writing. So, too, do his thoughts and actions make apparent the interconnectedness across scientific domains and cultures. He simultaneously recalls the natural philosophers—who sought new knowledge prior to the rise of the silos of contemporary academic disciplines—and presages the interdisciplinary, integrative approaches of today’s researchers grounded in dynamic systems theory—who recognize the self-organizing interrelationships among subsystems across time from which emerge the functioning of the whole system.

I believe that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality. They are not just parts somehow related to each other, but an inseparable whole while functioning.
(p. 28, compatible with dynamic systems theory)

To me, it has always been obvious that research is one important way that we can continue to develop and grow the Feldenkrais Method. Not all agree, of course. But I reflect on how it was that Dr. Feldenkrais saw a need in others for another way to learn to learn, to learn to improve. He made good use of his education, training and cross-cultural experiences to synthesize his method grounded in knowledge across many disciplines. He used research in its many forms to do so.

An immense field for inquiry is opened once the organic ties of social orientation are followed up into the muscles, nerves, and skeleton. Not only can individual development or abnormality be followed through the body, but so can even wider cultural and racial differences in attitudes.

The introversion, the nonattachment, and the indifference of the Hindu with corresponding looseness of hip joints, and the extroverted, holding-on, time-is-money attitude of the industrial nations (with their utter inability to sit cross-legged), are a few examples.
(p. 33, an example of bio-psycho-socio-cultural observational research)

On July 8 this year, a meeting for people interested in research relevant to the Feldenkrais Method will be held in conjunction with the Annual Conference taking place at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Whether seriously engaged or seriously interested in research, “Feldenkrais® Science Network: The Evolution of Knowing & Learning” will afford participants opportunities to learn about recent developments, exchange ideas, and reflect on how our understanding of human behavior has changed since Dr. Feldenkrais taught his last students at Hampshire before his death in 1984. (Read more at http://www.feldenkrais.com/events/conference/2011/conf_event/3918.)

In my examination of the bodies of several thousand people before and during re-education, I have found there are some norms for the definition of health and normality. In particular I have looked at the distribution of tonus throughout the bodies of these people.
(p. 31, an example of biomechanical observational and intervention research)


The featured presenter during this meeting is my friend and colleague, Cole Galloway. He and I met at Indiana University while studying and working with developmental psychologist Esther Thelen. (Read more about Esther at http://www.feldenkrais.com/resources/esther_thelen_phd_gcfp_research_and_education_fund/)
His talks are always entertaining and stimulating, as the title of his presentation suggests: “Babies Gone Wild: Unleashing Infant Exploration.”

Cole will be sharing his recent research that demonstrates the importance of self-directed, powered mobility (as in babies driving robotic vehicles!) to the development of young children in areas of cognition, perception and emotions—particularly for infants who are delayed in learning to walk. While some would be surprised to learn that moving oneself about the environment is key to progressing in other areas of behavior, Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teachers®, their students, and dynamic systems researchers would not. Cole’s research is one example of how scientists can be mindful of the interactions among moving, sensing, thinking and feeling and conduct research that is relevant to and appropriate for the Feldenkrais Method. (Read more about Cole’s work at the University of Delaware at http://www.udel.edu/PT/About%20Us/People/galloway.html. Be sure to scroll down to “Dr. Galloway in the News.”)

My inmost belief is that, just as anatomy has helped us get an intimate knowledge of the working of the body, and neuroanatomy an understanding of some activities of the psyche, so will understanding of the somatic aspects of consciousness enable us to know ourselves more intimately.
(p. 34, examples of basic research and interdisciplinary research)

I never met Dr. Feldenkrais, but he continues with us. For me, his words encourage us to seek new knowledge and continue to learn. That is central to his method for self-improvement: become more aware, make finer distinctions, and use those insights to improve and change. Research is one option for applying his instructions. Perhaps I will see you July 8 in Amherst.

There is still a vast field left unexplored in the realm of body and mind. But a useful start has been made that provides means to make considerable changes in behavior. There can be no improvement without change.
(p. 43, suggestive of the need for translational, basic and applied research)

Reference
Feldenkrais, M. (2010). Mind and Body. In E. Beringer (Ed.), Embodied wisdom: The collected papers of Moshe Feldenkrais (pp. 27-44). Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

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